Friday, April 27, 2018

2003 CNNP “Small Green Mark Iron Cake” and Steeping Puerh by “Keeping the Root”

Dear Scott Wilson,
I just wanted to thank you for being the powerhouse you are in the Western puerh scene.  I think it would be hard to think of another person who has had greater influence.   Since I started drinking puerh you and Yunnan Sourcing were there and you are still there stronger than ever.  Even though I was away from purchasing puerh for a long time, upon my return I have felt that Yunnan Sourcing still had the same basic philosophy and feel to it despite the obvious rapid pace of change.  This says a lot.  You have stuck to your principles while still managing to evolve to the always changing puerh tastes and fads.  Nowadays, you can virtually find any type of puerh, any type of storage, from any area at Yunnan Sourcing.  Thanks also for your efforts at empowering buyers with as much information as you can pass on about the tea you sell.   I really appreciate it.
I purchased this one from Yunnan Sourcing ($85.00 for 357gcake $0.24/g ) a month or so ago along with the 2005 CNNP “Big Yellow Mark”.  Like the Big Yellow mark, this one has no date stamped on it.  It also has no neifi either.
Dry leaves smell of clean dry wood with a very mild sweet pungent odour.
First infusion is full interesting cherry blossom florals and plumby, mainly sweet, subtly sour cherry.  There are even salt tastes as well as a dry bark wood taste as well.  This tea is a tasty one.  There is slight astringency in the mouth and the tongue.  This first infusion is fragrant and lasting.
The second infusion has more of an oxidized wood taste up front the sweet notes are secondary and linger in the aftertaste and build into a very sweet burst of returning flavor.  The lips and mouthfeel are slightly chalky.  This tea has that cotton candy cottony mouthfeel and lingering sweet aftertaste.  There is not too much depth to ground it.
The third infusion is much the same tastes really.  The plumy, cotton candy returning sweetness is very nice.  The mouthfeel has that light chalky, talc taste and feel which I value in puerh.  Both the sweetness and woodiness are more pronounced in this third infusion as the iron compression slowly comes apart in the pot.
The fourth is much the same with the dry wood bark taste becoming dominant across the profile of this tea.  This flavor is simple but just enough to give it something to anchor the resounding high notes that are much less in this infusion.
The fifth starts off woody, dry bark, slight astringent, kind of sour, almost dry before it traverses to chalky, dry, astringent sweet cotton candy plum.  The dry wood taste and feel is throughout even in the aftertaste now.  The breath is a sweet cherry plum taste.
The sixth infusion has a thinner sharper quality to it with a division of tastes between dry woody in the initial and base, and sweet plumy aftertaste.
The seventh infusion still has a nice progression of taste.  It starts dry wood then slides into that sweeter, barely talc, faint cotton candy-plumy sweetness.  It is less obvious but the progression is still here in the seventh infusion.
The eighth infusion is of almost dry earth and dry wood base tastes there is only a little left in the aftertaste resembling the sweetness and fruitiness in the first infusions.  There is a slightly bitter wood taste throughout.  The mouthfeel isn’t really dry, just sandy slight dry astringency.
The ninth becomes watery and light in its initial taste.  Then it slowly develops a dry woodiness which turns into a sweet barely plum aftertaste.  The tenth infusion is much the same.  It’s still there but faded.
The tenth doesn’t leave that much left to enjoy faint watery tastes, barely there.
Overnight infusions are vibrant and fruit still so I do a few of these and really enjoy them.  The qi of this tea is very light a mild relaxing feeling that’s about it.  You feel the mind relax and the head float just ever so slightly.  In the body you can ever so slightly feel it in the belly.
Bravo for Scott at finding a solid iron bing to offer us.  On the site it states that this was Shanghai stored and is somewhere between wet and dry stored.  I would say it’s much closer to dry stored but that’s just my evaluation.  This puerh is interesting for a few reasons.
First, it offers puerh drinkers in the West a chance to taste fragrant aged dry storage.  I think there are few cakes for sale in the west that offer this.  The reason is because this taste profile is highly valued in China these days and is a sign of both good storage, age and dryness.  As a result, often cakes that display this profile are usually quite expensive and out of the price range of the average buyer in the West.  I think only because this is a generic CNNP without verified date or region can it be offered so cheaply.
Secondly, it offers a nice example of how the higher notes can really age so nicely in the tighter compression of an iron bing.  Although, this iron bing is not really pressed super tight it still offers the best of an iron bing as far as the high notes go.  It isn't a CNNP "Blue Mark" but this CNNP "Small Green Mark" has something to it.
So, I must have stocked up on this cake then right?  While, I am sitting with just one of these and feel OK with that.  It’s quite a simple tasting tea in some ways, really, but it still has enough going on.  It has a certain dry purity that I enjoy but it is not overly complex beyond its incredible fragrant fruity high notes.  I almost feel like the price is almost worth it for these notes themselves and the age.  Yet, even these notes start to fade after the first few infusions.
I sometimes steep teas that fade quickly by “keeping the root”.  It’s a phrase used by teamasters to describe a type of brewing where you always leave a bit of the last infusion in the fair cup.  It can also describe the technique of always leaving a bit of tea in the drinking cup or even in the actual teapot.  I use this technique with puerh that fades or drops off fast to maintain these fleeting notes.  I just leave ½ the tea in the fair cup before steeping the next infusion.  It works amazing for some teas.  This one really benefits from "keeping the root”.
When reviewing puerh on this blog I never do this sort of thing because I want to be more clear on how a tea is actually preforming from infusion to infusion.  However, after this first tasting I’ve been steeping it with the root and enjoying it.



Peter said...


Interesting to read your perception of value regarding this tea. Items may seem rare or scarce, and therefore worth more when presented in the online market, but this is really just lack of alernatives. Consumers think they have a "find". A no name tea like this, in for example malaysia, would cost $20 - 30, possibly even less. Western consumers seem happy to pay a lot of money for this years tea so $85 for an aged tea seems reaonable and I might suggest that if it was too cheap it may not sell. Always interesting to read your blog.

Matt said...

Peter Robertson,

I am finding it increasingly difficult these days to wrap my mind around things like value. Think you picked up on this struggle in this post.

This tea really does have something of value. A high cotton candy like sweetness in dry aged storage, however, this doesn't last too many infusions nor does it have much depth.

I read a comment by the wise Shah8 when prices were really starting to rise that stated that you should decide on a quality or qualities you wish to pay for in puerh because nowadays to get everything for a low price is simply impossible.

I think if you value the above quality in puerh, it could be worth it for you.

The "thank you" to Scott was also for going through countless garbage (maybe Malaysian) CNNPs to find, a least, something to value. The fact that it is screened and curated by a Western vendor, commands some of the higher price, I think.

Thanks Peter for your viewpoint and conversation.